Troops who fled face press-gang

Up to 40,000 Krajina Serb soldiers who escaped with their families after Croatia's recent offensive are likely to be allowed only a few days' rest before being forced to fight alongside Bosnia's hard-pressed Serbs.

"Very few are joining the Bosnian Serbs voluntarily. The Krajina Serbs were always a loose-knit military grouping," a UN source said yesterday.

Many soldiers interviewed on the road seemed determined to rejoin civilian life in Serbia, rather than joining the Bosnian Serbs, with whom they feel little affinity. But they are likely to be sent back, like the Bosnian Serb deserters rounded up by military police, to a war they have no wish to fight.

The Krajina army was estimated at up to 50,000 strong, but appears to have been a flimsy and less cohesive force. The Bosnian Serbs probably fear that the Croats, their Bosnian Croat allies and the Bosnian V Corps will continue to press on their western border, and will need to secure it.

Although short of men, the Bosnian Serbs have plenty of weapons, for which they may now be thankful. The Croats seem to have ensured that almost all the Krajina Serbs' weapons, apart from pistols, have been handed in to the two UN collection points.

A UN official said the Krajina Serbs had handed in "a mountain" of weapons - many more than expected: "You won't believe this: tanks, armoured personnel carriers, surface-to-air missiles ..."